Can Audley Shaw defuse this time bomb?
Twenty years ago, I used to be extremely concerned at the many pockets of idle young men hanging out on street corners and in community hamlets doing nothing more than smoking weed and planning their next sexual conquest.
The years have passed and new sets of idlers are still at it, but I have moved from being purely concerned to being a little bit scared. Why? The new sets of idlers are much more aware of a wider range of issues, and as their female counterparts speed off and leave them in the slow lane, one senses that they are not in the mood to take prisoners.
That seething anger could have been on the mind of former Prime Minister Eddie Seaga when he first mooted the idea of impeachment of public officials in 1990. In other words, the police had been failing the people in terms of bringing perpetrators of heinous crimes to long stays behind sturdy metal bars; the courts were made only for the super rich; and the politicians who had the legislative power to enact change were wallowing in the sweet muck of the status quo.
Since Seaga brought the idea of impeachment to the House in 1990, not much has been heard of it. No surprise there. We have had the public defender and the contractor general as important inclusions in streamlining governance and its interaction with the people. What the hell more do we expect the politicians to give us? A noose to squeeze their own necks?
Certainly in the long run of the PNP from 1989 to 2007, had there been in place laws that could generate articles of impeachment, it is quite likely that our political history and electoral trajectory would have been quite different. The numerous scandals that dogged the Patterson administration would have led to at least two impeachable items, and the long run would most likely have been truncated.
The 2006 Trafigura Beheer scandal would have been an item tailor-made for the impeachment of at least two public servants. In the Golding-led JLP of 2007-2011, Bruce Golding himself would have only escaped impeachment by his resignation.
In the PNP's 2011-2016 run, just in the Outameni scandal alone, probably three public officials/politicians would have had their heads placed on the impeachment block.
And, early as it is in the life of this JLP administration, what are we to make of Finance Minister Audley Shaw, a man always willing to talk but who has now gone conveniently silent? We have been assured by Minister Ruel Reid, in his capacity as information minister, that the nation will be hearing more about the JLP's 'commitment' on instituting the $1.5-million no-tax package. Just a few more weeks, he says.
Recent history tends not to be so assertive a teacher as the history written down in books. As a result, we are still trying to assimilate exactly what was in the mind of Andrew Holness when he, as opposition leader, dropped the bombshell promise of no income tax for those earning $1.5 million and under.
As a first, we knew that he was in desperation mode, and we could not blame him for that, as he set out to do what all politicians do. Make promises not properly thought out. Like Michael Manley's free education to university level in 1972 which could not be sustained.
Yesterday morning, I spoke with a senior member of the JLP Cabinet who said, when I asked, how it would work out in the back end, at the bottom line.
'It was a commitment we made. It will work out in the back end, the front end and in the middle. It will be instituted."
Audley Shaw and his prime minister and the rest of the JLP Cabinet must examine the first draft of history written in newspaper columns between mid-2015 and the present time. That history is one informing them that the electorate has not grown as fickle as we may want to believe it has become, as much as those making up the voters' list are not in the mood to waste time and take politicians as prisoners.
So, Mr Shaw, do your conjuring and let us know how the numbers crunch out on the back end. And on the front end and in the middle.
And you may also wish to tell us what you knew back then and what you conveniently forgot to recall.